The Memphis Grizzlies scored the final seven points of the game for a stunning 119-118 road defeat of the Utah Jazz on Monday.

After Bojan Bogdanovic made a pair of three-pointers to give Utah a 108-112 lead with 1:28 to play, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. combined to make four free throws and Jackson hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 5.7 seconds to play as Memphis (9-8) pulled out the win.

Utah (11-6) missed their final four shots of the game and also turned the ball over twice in the final 20 seconds. 

Morant had 32 points to lead all scorers and added seven assists, while Desmond Bane scored 28 and Jackson finished with 26. 

Bogdanovic led the Jazz with 24 points and Rudy Gobert contributed 23 on nine-of-10 shooting while grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds and blocking five shots. 

 

Durant, Nets hold off Cavaliers

Kevin Durant had 27 points and nine rebounds while James Harden chipped in 14 points and 14 assists for the Brooklyn Nets in a 117-112 road victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting off the bench for Brooklyn (13-5) as Darius Garland led Cleveland (9-9) with 24 points and 11 assists as he made only nine of 27 shots from the field. 

Tyrese Maxey scored 24 and Andre Drummond collected 23 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers (10-8) pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 102-94 defeat of the Sacramento Kings (6-12) despite playing without Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Seth Curry. De'Aaron Fox led the Kings with 23 in Alvin Gentry's first game as interim head coach. 

Jaylen Brown scored 19 points in 23 minutes as he returned to the Boston Celtics lineup after missing the previous eight games with a right hamstring strain. Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 30 as the Celtics (10-8) defeated Houston 108-90, sending the Rockets (1-16) to their 15th consecutive loss as they fell to 0-11 on the road. 

The Phoenix Suns held off a late charge by the San Antonio Spurs to prevail 115-111 for their 13th consecutive win. Devin Booker had 23 points to lead the Suns (14-3) while Deandre Ayton added 21 points and 14 rebounds. 

 

Bulls draw blanks from field

The Chicago Bulls entered Monday level with the Nets for the best record in the Eastern Conference but could not find their shooting touch in an ugly 109-77 home defeat against the Indiana Pacers. The Bulls (12-6) made 31 of 85 shots from the field (36.5 per cent), including just six of 28 (21.4 per cent) from three-point range. They scored 30 points in the second quarter but just 47 in the other three combined as Indiana (8-11) built an earl lead, then ran away with it in the second half. 

It took Jaylen Brown a while to get heated up Monday in his first game in two and a half weeks, but the Boston Celtics liked what they saw once he got going. 

Brown returned to the Boston lineup after missing eight games with a right hamstring strain and did his part as the Celtics pulled away from the woeful Houston Rockets in the second half for a 108-90 victory. 

Head coach Ime Udoka said before the game that Brown likely would be limited to 24 minutes, and he ended up playing 23, scoring 19 points on six-of-13 shooting from the field. 

The 25-year-old guard missed his first three shot attempts before sinking a jumper midway through the first quarter, but he did not show signs of his usual self until the second half. 

Midway through the third quarter, Brown embarked on a personal 10-0 run capped by a pair of three-pointers just 24 seconds apart to boost the Boston lead to 72-50. 

"He got warm, then got on that flurry in the third quarter," said Udoka. "To have him back in that third quarter to see what he did was a great sign."

Udoka said Brown "still doesn't feel normal, normal" so the team likely will take care to avoid rushing him back to his typical load of about 36 minutes per game. 

Any contribution figures to be a positive for the Celtics, who have now won three in a row for the first time this season as Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 30 points Monday.

All of the Celtics' big-picture plans include Brown as a key piece, though, so seeing him back on the court was a relief. 

"Once he was able to get a couple baskets, you could just see that he felt more comfortable with everything and he opened up," said team-mate Al Horford. "He's such a good player that he'll find his way."

Robert Williams III also returned to the Boston lineup after missing three games with a knee injury. The big man attempted just one shot from the field, and made it, but made his presence felt by racking up 15 rebounds. 

After a seventh-place finish in the Eastern Conference was followed by a first-round exit in the playoffs, the Boston Celtics decided it was time for change.

Danny Ainge, the long-time director of basketball operations, is out. Brad Stevens' reign as head coach is over too, though he has switched from orchestrating plays on the sideline to making deals in the front office. His replacement on the bench, Ime Udoka, is an experienced member of supporting casts who finally gets a chance to take on a lead role.

The revamp was not just restricted to team staff, either.

Kemba Walker – seen as a major addition in 2019 – was deemed expendable amid concerns over both his long-term health and salary number. The deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder came at a cost – Boston had to give up their first-round pick in this year's draft as a sweetener – but it may not be the final move for a franchise aiming to regain momentum.

For so long, the Celtics were viewed as a team on the rise. A plethora of burgeoning talents were allowed to develop under the highly rated Stevens, a graduate from the college system who steered them to the Eastern Conference Finals on three occasions between 2017 and 2020.

However, 2020-21 was undoubtedly a step back. A 36-36 record in the regular season, albeit amid the backdrop of a global pandemic, was a surprise. Losing to the Brooklyn Nets in five, however, was not. In fact, the only shock was that they managed to avoid being swept.

So what happens in the next chapter of the Celtics story? Stevens must work out the path for a team that, after playing the long game, has quickly been left behind by its rivals

Boston's double act offers hope

Capitalising on a plethora of draft picks stockpiled over time, the Celtics had sculpted a roster that appeared a step away from moving onto the next level. Major moves were made to try and tip the balance: Kyrie Irving appeared the perfect marriage only for the relationship to flame out, while Gordon Hayward endured a hugely unfortunate start and never completely recovered.

Walker has gone now too, leaving Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as the two fundamental pillars in place for Boston to build around.

Brown finished with a career-high 24.7 points per game at the end of the regular season, a figure aided by shooting 39.7 per cent from deep when averaging 7.1 three-pointers an outing. He attempted more shots in general, with his 19.2 field goals up from 15.6 in the previous campaign. There was also an upturn in assists as well.

However, a wrist injury meant he missed the series against the Nets. Tatum fought a lone hand, including a 50-point performance in Game 3. He became the third Celtic to reach a half-century in a regulation playoff game, joining a select group that also includes John Havlicek and Sam Jones.

Yet that stunning performance merely delayed the inevitable. In putting together a big three, the Nets had jumped the queue in the East. Boston were one of only two teams to have a pair of players finish in the top 20 for points per game in the regular season. The other? Brooklyn, of course.

Tatum averaged an impressive 26.8 points per 75 possessions to continue on an upward curve. Kevin Durant described the third overall pick in the 2017 draft as a "tough, tough cover" after trying to keep him quiet during the first-round matchup. Like Brown, the 23-year-old showed his all-round capabilities by setting career-high averages for points, rebounds and assists.

His usage rate of 30.8 per cent for every 75 possessions was both a sign of his growing status and also a by-product of an ever-changing cast around him. The Celtics used 37 different line-ups – only three teams topped that figure – as injuries and the added wrinkle of the NBA's COVID-19 protocols left Stevens consistently shuffling the deck on a nightly basis.

However, the absences should not paper over the cracks: Brown and Tatum - whose absence from an All-NBA team cost him $33million in his rookie extension – need help.

 

Moving on from Walker

Boston hoped Walker would be a multi-dimensional scoring guard who could also facilitate for others. The issue was he did not play nearly enough to merit holding on to that ideal any longer.

Walker was restricted to 43 appearances in the regular season, during which he averaged 19.3 points per game – his lowest total since 2014-15. The team was marginally better with him on the court – they scored at 113.2 points per 100 possessions, compared to 109.6 without – though played at a slightly higher pace when the former Charlotte Hornet was absent.

Taking into consideration the likelihood of the four-time All-Star utilising his player option for the 2022-23 season, there was over $73m left on his deal. Boston did get something in return from the Thunder, as a familiar face returned for a second spell (more on that later).

Walker's departure provides some cap relief, of course, but it also leaves a sizable hole in the roster. Marcus Smart appears the in-house option to start at point guard, yet he is heading into a contract year and is still yet to demonstrate how he can be relied upon for consistent offensive production.

His 14.2 points per 75 possessions ranked him 222nd in the league, although a player with a reputation for being a pest to opposing teams posted a defensive rating of 112.8, the highest of his NBA career. As he heads into his eighth season, Smart is a solid contributor capable of making plays without the ball, yet also someone opposing teams do not fear having possession in crunch time.

The same may well be said for Al Horford, even if the Celtics are not quite getting the same player who said farewell to Boston in 2019.

You can call me, Al

Life in Philadelphia did not pan out for Horford following his move in free agency two years ago, with him stuck as the odd man out in a crowded front court where Joel Embiid rules the roost. His time in Oklahoma was short-lived, but now he is back in familiar surroundings.

The 14-year veteran returns having become a more frequent three-point shooter since his first stint – his average of 5.4 attempts in 20 games for the Thunder was a career high, a stark contrast to the player who tried 18 shots from beyond the arc across his first six years in the league.

His playmaking abilities will help lighten the load on Brown and Tatum, while his experience should be invaluable to promising big Robert Williams, whose effective field goal percentage of 72.1 left him behind only DeAndre Jordan in the entire NBA.

Williams also showed he can be a presence on defense, with only five players averaging more blocked shots per game. The third-year center is a low usage, high-value finisher when close to the rim who is primed to take on a starting role.

In general, however, Boston's defensive numbers suffered a dip. Having ranked second in the category in 2019-20, giving up 107.3 points per outing, they fell outside the top 10 this term, their points against number finishing up at 111.2

The Celtics also have a decision to make over Evan Fournier, the trade-deadline addition who is now a free agent. Outside shooting is a must in the league, and the Frenchman was successful with 46.3 per cent of his three-point attempts in the regular season following his arrival from the Orlando Magic.

Last year's first-round selection Payton Pritchard, who shot 46.7 per cent when averaging 2.5 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts, showed signs of promise, but Boston still needs more shooting depth.

 

Verdict: Evolution

The revolution may have already occurred in Boston. After over 600 games as the head coach, Stevens wasted no time in making an impact following his change of roles.

However, a full re-shaping of the team would require trading away one of the core pieces he has worked so closely with over recent years. Smart, who makes just over $14m on an expiring deal, appears the most trade-friendly asset: the Celtics know the clock is ticking.

Whether Smart sticks around or not, Boston needs more to aid their dynamic duo in Brown and Tatum. The cap situation suggests dipping a toe into the free agency waters, rather than diving right in. There is no point pinning too much faith on the draft process for help either, as their first-round selection is now sitting in the Thunder's treasure chest of picks.

Stevens will survey the landscape and acknowledge standing still is a risk. Brooklyn have their big three, Giannis Antetokounmpo is ensconced in the East with Milwaukee and the Atlanta Hawks have suddenly found their wings to make a run to the Conference Finals.

His final year saw Boston average 1.18 points per possession, behind only the Sacramento Kings, while their effective field goal percentage of 63.3 ranked fourth. There is much to like about this group, yet also a feeling that standing pat is a risk with few potential rewards.

If there is a shortcut to potentially becoming a title candidate, it could be in the form of a frustrated superstar ripe for picking off in a blockbuster trade. That, however, would require a change of mindset when it comes to how they have gone about team building in recent years.

Moving Walker was a fine start, but Stevens the GM has to get creative if Boston are to get back involved in the title race again, rather than just making up the playoff numbers.

Boston Celtics All-Star guard Jaylen Brown will miss the remainder of the NBA season due to a wrist injury.

In a major blow for the playoff-chasing Celtics, Brown was diagnosed with a torn scapholunate ligament in his left wrist, the team announced on Monday.

Brown is expected to have surgery on the torn ligament later this week, while there is no timetable for a return.

The 24-year-old had already missed the past three games with a sprained left ankle.

Brown had been enjoying a career season for the Celtics, resulting in his first All-Star selection.

In 2020-21, Brown was averaging career highs for points (24.7), assists (3.4), field-goal percentage (48.4) and three-point percentage (39.7), while he also averaged 6.0 rebounds per game.

Brown's injury comes with Boston's season in the balance.

The Celtics (35-33) are seventh in the Eastern Conference – enough for a play-in tournament berth – though Boston are in danger of missing the postseason altogether.

Stephen Curry posted more than 30 points for a career-best ninth consecutive game as the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-101.

Curry starred for the Warriors on Thursday, scoring 33 points to lead the visitors past the Cavaliers in Cleveland and to their fourth successive win.

The two-time MVP – who is averaging 38.2 points amid his streak – became the first Warriors player to have at least 30 points in nine straight games since Rick Barry in 1966-67.

Andrew Wiggins added 23 points for the Warriors, while Juan Toscano-Anderson had his first career 20-point game with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The Cavaliers were led by Collin Sexton's 30 points and Jarrett Allen's double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds.

 

Brown goes off against Lakers

The Boston Celtics took down injury-hit defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers 121-113 at Staples Center. Without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers were punished by Jaylen Brown, who fuelled the Celtics with 40 points on 17-for-20 shooting, making three of his five three-point attempts to go with nine rebounds and three assists. He became the first player in franchise history to score 40-plus points with a field-goal percentage of 85 per cent or better.

Deandre Ayton (26 points and 11 rebounds), Devin Booker (23 points) and Chris Paul (13 points and 11 assists) combined as the red-hot Phoenix Suns topped the Sacramento Kings 122-114. Phoenix won their 10th consecutive home game as they reached 40 victories for the first time since 2014.

Brook Lopez was efficient with 19 points and 12 rebounds on seven-for-10 shooting, while he was three-of-six from three-point range as two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from a six-game injury lay-off in the Milwaukee Bucks' 120-109 success against the Atlanta Hawks.

 

Matthews and Caldwell-Pope struggle

It was not a memorable outing for Lakers pair Wesley Matthews (three points) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (two points), who were both one-for-seven shooting in 23 minutes as starters. Matthews made one of his six attempts from beyond the arc, while Caldwell-Pope missed all three of his efforts.

Kevin Love – an NBA champion with the Cavaliers – finished two-for-10 shooting against the Warriors. The veteran (five points) only nailed one of his seven three-point attempts on a rough day.

 

Tricky Tatum

Jayson Tatum had five assists against the Lakers, including a behind-the-back dime to tee up Celtics team-mate Tristan Thompson.

 

Thursday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 120-109 Atlanta Hawks
Golden State Warriors 119-101 Cleveland Cavaliers
Phoenix Suns 122-114 Sacramento Kings
Boston Celtics 121-113 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Clippers at 76ers

A blockbuster clash will see the in-form Los Angeles Clippers (39-18) visit the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers (38-17) on Friday. The Clippers have won seven straight, while the 76ers are in the midst of a three-game winning run.

Giannis Antetokounmpo added another MVP award to his growing collection as the Milwaukee Bucks superstar guided Team LeBron to a 170-150 victory over Team Durant in Sunday's All-Star Game.

The previous three All-Star contests had pitted LeBron James against Antetokounmpo in a mouth-watering Team LeBron versus Team Giannis matchup.

But James and Antetokounmpo joined forces for this year's 70th All-Star Game as the later fuelled Team LeBron to a comprehensive win in Atlanta.

Two-time reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo – drafted first by Los Angeles Lakers superstar James – led Team LeBron to a fourth consecutive All-Star triumph behind his game-high 35 points on 16-for-16 shooting.

Antetokounmpo joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to go 16-for-16 or better from the field in any game (regular season, playoffs or All-Star Game), per Stats Perform. Chamberlain accomplished the feat twice in the regular season in 1966-67 (18-for-18 and 16-for-16).

Antetokounmpo's performance earned All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP honours for the first time in his career.

Team LeBron – without Joel Embiid as he joined Philadelphia 76ers team-mate and Team Durant's Ben Simmons in sitting out due to COVID-19 contact tracing – entered the fourth quarter requiring only 24 points to seal victory under the Elam Ending rule.

Each of the first three quarters started with the score at 0-0 and lasted the standard 12 minutes, with the game clock turned off for the final period and a final target score set.

Team LeBron's Damian Lillard sealed the victory with a three-pointer – the Portland Trail Blazers guard posting 32 points.

Stephen Curry, who won the Three-Point Contest as All-Star proceedings were condensed into one day amid the coronavirus pandemic – had 28 points for Team LeBron, including eight three-pointers in 22 minutes.

Jaylen Brown was next best for Team LeBron, while James tallied four points, four assists, two rebounds and a block in 13 minutes of action and Chris Paul posted six points and 16 assists.

Bradley Beal (26), Kyrie Irving (24 and 12 assists), James Harden (21), Jayson Tatum (21), Donovan Mitchell (15), Zach Lavine (13) and Zion Williamson (10) all had double-digit points for Team Durant.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry was dramatically crowned Three-Point Content champion on the final shot in Atlanta.

Gearing up for Sunday's All-Star Game, two-time MVP Curry reigned supreme thanks to his final shot – a two-point money ball that put him ahead of Utah Jazz star Mike Conley in a shooting masterclass.

Curry bested Conley and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics in the final round to become just the seventh player to win the contest multiple times, and the first to do so since Jason Kapono (2007-08).

Three-time NBA champion Curry, who posted a final round score of 28, previously won the three-point competition in 2015.

Curry dedicated the win to injured Warriors team-mate Klay Thompson, who claimed the contest in 2016.

"The Splash bros, we are back," Curry said. "This one goes out to Klay Thompson, we got it done big fella."

LeBron James selected two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo with his number one pick for the NBA All-Star Game, while Kevin Durant drafted Brooklyn Nets team-mate Kyrie Irving.

On Thursday, team captains James and Durant filled out their rosters for Sunday's All-Star contest in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo often go head-to-head in the All-Star Games as respective captains, but that is not the case this year.

Antetokounmpo will team up with James, who also selected Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and the Denver Nuggets' MVP candidate Nikola Jokic as starters.

Team LeBron's reserves are Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns), Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) and Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz).

Durant – sidelined as he nurses a hamstring injury – turned to Brooklyn star Irving with the second overall pick in the All-Star draft.

MVP candidate and 76ers star Joel Embiid, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Washington Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum of the Celtics are the other starters for Team Durant.

The reserves drafted by Durant are James Harden (Nets), Devin Booker (Suns), Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic) and Donovan Mitchell (Jazz).

Team LeBron have won the past three All-Star Games after topping Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago last year.

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle praised Luka Doncic for having "laser-like focus" after his game-winning shot sunk the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. 

Doncic hit a three-point attempt with just 0.1 seconds remaining to seal a 110-107 triumph for the Mavericks in front of a small crowd, his second successful effort from deep during a dramatic finish to proceedings.

The Celtics had tied the scores at 107-107 when Jaylen Brown made a driving layup, but there was still enough time left for the Mavs to nick it. 

For Carlisle, it was just further proof that certain players are wired differently to deal with such moments, putting Doncic in the same bracket as legendary names such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. 

"He's just a very unique player, a very unique person," Carlisle said.

"The wiring of people like Luka Doncic, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, guys that have this laser-like focus in these situations.  

"It's difficult to explain how their minds and their brains work." 

Doncic – who will be one of the starters for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game next month – finished with 31 points, aided by making six of his eight attempts from deep.  

He had missed a late three that would have tied the game in the defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers last time out, but this time came up with the clutch shot under pressure, something he has become accustomed to taking – and making – despite not turning 22 until Sunday.

"It felt good out of my hands, I was kind of tired just running around the whole possession. But it got in, and that's all that matters," Doncic said. 

"It's something I've been doing. Sometimes two people go to me and I have to pass it. 

"Sometimes you're going to miss it, sometimes you're going to make it."

Brown led the way for the Celtics with 29 points, while Jayson Tatum contributed 28. Both players were named to the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves list prior to the game. 

"I don't feel very much like an All-Star because we're below .500," Brown said as Boston fell to a 15-16 record for the season.  

"I think this is the most I've lost since I've been here. I'm hopeful that we'll string some games together and make a run. It's very much in our grasp to do so." 

James Harden and Anthony Davis headline the reserves for next month's NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets will captain their respective sides – Team LeBron and Team Durant – in the 70th All-Star contest on March 7.

Nets guard and former MVP Harden has been named an All-Star for the ninth consecutive year as he headlines the Eastern Conference reserves, which also includes Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum (both Boston Celtics), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks) and Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic).

Brown, LaVine and Randle have earned All-Star selection for the first time in their careers.

Lakers star Davis is the pick of the Western Conference reserves, alongside 11-time All-Star Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.

Joining the pair as reserves from the west are Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (both Utah Jazz), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) and Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans) – who is a first-time All-Star.

The All-Star Game rosters will be determined through a March 4 draft, where James and Durant will select from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference.

The 10 All-Star Game starters were unveiled last week, with Durant, Kyrie Irving (Nets) two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) and Joel Embiid (76ers) in the Eastern Conference starter pool.

James, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) and Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) are in the Western Conference starter pool.

76ers head coach Doc Rivers will coach Team Durant, while Quin Snyder of the Jazz will coach Team LeBron.

The Los Angeles Lakers will aim to rebound from back-to-back defeats when they face the Boston Celtics in the latest chapter of a storied NBA rivalry.  

A narrow 107-106 defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers was followed by a surprise 107-92 setback against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, so the Lakers – who lost consecutive games for the first time this season – will need to improve to walk away from TD Garden with a W in the sixth of seven straight road games.  

No teams have faced off in the Finals more than the 12 contested by the Lakers and the Celtics, who are tied for the most NBA championships of all time with 17 apiece.  

The Celtics are now 10-7 in a season that has been affected by COVID-19 issues after going down 110-106 to the San Antonio Spurs in their previous outing.

KEY PERFORMERS

Jaylen Brown

Much of the scoring burden for the Celtics this season is landing on Brown, whose 27.1 points per game ranks him inside the top 10 in the league.  

That average bumps up to 29.7 for games played at the Garden this season and he will certainly aim to make the most of home-court advantage against LeBron James and a star-studded Lakers cast.  

No one on the Celtics roster has a better three-point percentage (44.1) than Brown, plus you can add in averages of 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists during an impressive campaign so far for the 24-year-old.

LeBron James

Most players by the age of 36 are thinking about winding down in the twilight of their careers, yet James has proven throughout his distinguished playing days he is no ordinary individual. 

He leads the Lakers for both points (25.5) and assists (7.5), while he is shooting at 41.7 per cent from beyond the arc – well above his career average of 34.6 per cent. 

With Anthony Davis potentially missing again due to a right quad injury, the Lakers will need their talisman firing on all cylinders.

KEY BATTLE: CAN TATUM GO TOE-TO-TOE WITH LEBRON?

The last time these teams went head-to-head was back in February 2020, the Lakers coming out narrow 114-112 victors on that occasion. 

Following the game, James took to Instagram to give a huge endorsement to Jayson Tatum, writing: "That boi to the left of me is an ABSOLUTE PROBLEM!! Keep going #YoungKing." 

Tatum had put up 41 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a mammoth outing, though James' enduring quality was on display with a brilliant fadeaway in the closing minutes putting the Lakers into a lead they would not relinquish (James had 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds). 

An offensive foul on what would have been a match-winning three from Tatum ended a fierce battle and the prospect of these two going head-to-head again is an exciting one.

HEAD TO HEAD

A rivalry that dates all the way back to 1948, the Celtics lead the regular season head-to-head between these heavyweights by 161-131. 

When you throw in playoff clashes, the Celtics lead the way at 204-162, while they also edge the past 10 encounters between the teams at 6-4. 

The Milwaukee Bucks snapped a two-game skid thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose double-double fuelled a 129-115 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

After the Bucks dropped back-to-back games, two-time reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo posted 27 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo became the sixth Bucks player to record 11,000 career points thanks to his performance in Milwaukee.

The Hawks – playing without Trae Young – were led by De'Andre Hunter's game-high 33 points and John Collins' 30 points but it was not enough.

Jaylen Brown produced a scintillating display as the Boston Celtics outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers 141-103.

Brown had 33 points in just 19 minutes – the most by any player in fewer than 20 minutes played during the shot-clock era (1954-55), according to NBA.com/Stats.

 

Kawhi stars

The Los Angeles Clippers celebrated their seventh consecutive victory behind Kawhi Leonard's 34 points in a 108-100 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers improved to 13-4, tying defending champions and city rivals the Los Angeles Lakers for the league's best record.

Gordon Hayward flexed his muscles with a game-high 39 points to lead the Charlotte Hornets past the Orlando Magic 107-104.

A season-high 30 points from OG Anunoby saw the Toronto Raptors top the Indiana Pacers 107-102 for a fifth victory in six games.

 

Westbrook struggles on return

For the first time in almost two weeks, Russell Westbrook was back on the court for the struggling Washington Wizards. However, the former MVP finished with just nine points in 25 minutes. Westbrook was three-of-11 from the field, while he made just one of three attempts from beyond the arc. He also had four turnovers as the Wizards lost 121-101 to the San Antonio Spurs.

Paul George has been in good form this season, but he struggled in the Clippers' win. He was four-of-13 from the field and only two-of-eight from three-point range for 11 points and four turnovers in 33 minutes.

 

Hayward proving his worth

Michael Jordan and the Hornets opted to give Hayward a big payday to lure him from Boston. The former All-Star has returned to his best with the Hornets, continuing his fine form with the game-winning shot with 0.7 seconds remaining.

Sunday's results

Toronto Raptors 107-102 Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Clippers 108-100 Oklahoma City Thunder
Boston Celtics 141-103 Cleveland Cavaliers
Charlotte Hornets 107-104 Orlando Magic
San Antonio Spurs 121-101 Washington Wizards
Milwaukee Bucks 129-115 Atlanta Hawks
Portland Trail Blazers 116-113 New York Knicks
Memphis Grizzlies-Sacramento Kings (postponed)

 

76ers at Pistons

The in-form Philadelphia 76ers (12-5) – the Eastern Conference leaders – will put their three-game winning streak on the line against the lowly Detroit Pistons (3-13) on Monday.

The NBA has postponed the Boston Celtics-Miami Heat showdown due to health and safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sunday's contest was set to go ahead, despite the Celtics missing seven players – including star pair Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – because of COVID-19 protocols, and nine in total.

But the NBA announced the postponement just hours before tip-off after a Heat player reportedly returned an inconclusive coronavirus test, leaving Miami without the required eight players to play due to contact tracing.

Heat guard Avery Bradley (health and safety protocols) had been ruled out of the game earlier in the day.

The Celtics were set to have the minimum eight players available against the Heat after Javonte Green, Semi Ojeleye, Grant Williams, Robert Williams II and Tristan Thompson were listed as outs pre-game.

Injuries had already forced Celtics pair Kemba Walker (knee) and Romeo Langford (wrist) to miss the scheduled meeting.

It comes as COVID-19 outbreaks impact the NBA following a coronavirus-hit 2019-20 campaign in the United States.

Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers were depleted for Saturday's loss to the Denver Nuggets after Seth Curry tested positive for coronavirus.

Contract tracing seriously impacted Doc Rivers' 76ers, who were without Curry, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Vincent Poirier, paired with injures to All-Star duo Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Philadelphia were only able to dress eight players against the Nuggets, though Mike Scott was unable to play due to a knee injury.

The Celtics own a 7-3 record in the Eastern Conference, ahead of last season's NBA Finals runners-up the Heat (4-4).

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